A lithium-ion camera battery was responsible for panic and long delays at Orlando International Airport on Friday. Luckily, no one was hurt in the incident.
The battery, stored in a passenger’s bag in the security line, exploded, and caught fire. Seeing the smoke, the passenger and others around them immediately moved away from the bag, knocking over line dividers and dropping luggage in a panic.
According to WFTV-9, TSA agent Ricardo Perez removed the smoking bag from the check-in area. He told the news outlet that he was not sure at first what was inside, but thought it could be an “improvised-explosive device.”
In the panic, rumors started about a shooting due to the loud noises made by the battery, however Orlando police dispelled the rumor on Twitter.
According to a statement released by Phil Brown, the CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, once the source of the explosion was located, TSA brought all passengers back to security, including those who had already been screened and were either waiting at their gates or boarded on planes that were awaiting takeoff.
“No one could go to the airside until this was accomplished and gate areas were found to be secure,” Brown said. “In this type of situation, we fully complied and fully supported this directive because above all, safety and security is our primary objective.”
Brown said the entire screening took a total of 6.5 hours to clear all gates: “Much of the delay stemmed from a lack of gate space for returning aircraft and aircraft that needed to be moved/relocated,” he said.
Lithium-ion batteries are allowed in carry-on luggage, however electronics that use them such as laptops, smartphones and cameras must be screened separately from passenger’s bags.